(make.info)Computed Names

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Computed Variable Names

   Computed variable names are a complicated concept needed only for
sophisticated makefile programming.  For most purposes you need not
consider them, except to know that making a variable with a dollar sign
in its name might have strange results.  However, if you are the type
that wants to understand everything, or you are actually interested in
what they do, read on.

   Variables may be referenced inside the name of a variable.  This is
called a "computed variable name" or a "nested variable reference".
For example,

     x = y
     y = z
     a := $($(x))

defines `a' as `z': the `$(x)' inside `$($(x))' expands to `y', so
`$($(x))' expands to `$(y)' which in turn expands to `z'.  Here the
name of the variable to reference is not stated explicitly; it is
computed by expansion of `$(x)'.  The reference `$(x)' here is nested
within the outer variable reference.

   The previous example shows two levels of nesting, but any number of
levels is possible.  For example, here are three levels:

     x = y
     y = z
     z = u
     a := $($($(x)))

Here the innermost `$(x)' expands to `y', so `$($(x))' expands to
`$(y)' which in turn expands to `z'; now we have `$(z)', which becomes

   References to recursively-expanded variables within a variable name
are reexpanded in the usual fashion.  For example:

     x = $(y)
     y = z
     z = Hello
     a := $($(x))

defines `a' as `Hello': `$($(x))' becomes `$($(y))' which becomes
`$(z)' which becomes `Hello'.

   Nested variable references can also contain modified references and
function invocations (*note Functions for Transforming Text:
Functions.), just like any other reference.  For example, using the
`subst' function (*note Functions for String Substitution and Analysis:
Text Functions.):

     x = variable1
     variable2 := Hello
     y = $(subst 1,2,$(x))
     z = y
     a := $($($(z)))

eventually defines `a' as `Hello'.  It is doubtful that anyone would
ever want to write a nested reference as convoluted as this one, but it
works: `$($($(z)))' expands to `$($(y))' which becomes `$($(subst
1,2,$(x)))'.  This gets the value `variable1' from `x' and changes it
by substitution to `variable2', so that the entire string becomes
`$(variable2)', a simple variable reference whose value is `Hello'.

   A computed variable name need not consist entirely of a single
variable reference.  It can contain several variable references, as
well as some invariant text.  For example,

     a_dirs := dira dirb
     1_dirs := dir1 dir2
     a_files := filea fileb
     1_files := file1 file2
     ifeq "$(use_a)" "yes"
     a1 := a
     a1 := 1
     ifeq "$(use_dirs)" "yes"
     df := dirs
     df := files
     dirs := $($(a1)_$(df))

will give `dirs' the same value as `a_dirs', `1_dirs', `a_files' or
`1_files' depending on the settings of `use_a' and `use_dirs'.

   Computed variable names can also be used in substitution references:

     a_objects := a.o b.o c.o
     1_objects := 1.o 2.o 3.o
     sources := $($(a1)_objects:.o=.c)

defines `sources' as either `a.c b.c c.c' or `1.c 2.c 3.c', depending
on the value of `a1'.

   The only restriction on this sort of use of nested variable
references is that they cannot specify part of the name of a function
to be called.  This is because the test for a recognized function name
is done before the expansion of nested references.  For example,

     ifdef do_sort
     func := sort
     func := strip
     bar := a d b g q c
     foo := $($(func) $(bar))

attempts to give `foo' the value of the variable `sort a d b g q c' or
`strip a d b g q c', rather than giving `a d b g q c' as the argument
to either the `sort' or the `strip' function.  This restriction could
be removed in the future if that change is shown to be a good idea.

   You can also use computed variable names in the left-hand side of a
variable assignment, or in a `define' directive, as in:

     dir = foo
     $(dir)_sources := $(wildcard $(dir)/*.c)
     define $(dir)_print
     lpr $($(dir)_sources)

This example defines the variables `dir', `foo_sources', and

   Note that "nested variable references" are quite different from
"recursively expanded variables" (*note The Two Flavors of Variables:
Flavors.), though both are used together in complex ways when doing
makefile programming.

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